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Royal Ballet star trades stage for frosh life at Stanford

Beatriz Stix-Brunell, who gave her farewell performance with the Royal Ballet in London a week ago, will begin her academic career as an undergraduate at Stanford in the fall.

In her final role with the Royal Ballet in London, Beatriz Stix-Brunell performed the pas de deux from After the Rain, a dance known for the quiet simplicity of its music – a piece played by a single violinist and pianist – and the architectural beauty of its choreography.

Beatriz Stix-Brunell, who will join Stanford as an undergraduate student in the fall, performing in The Winter’s Tale at the Royal Ballet in London in 2018. (Image credit: Tristram Kenton)

Stix-Brunell, who will join Stanford as a frosh in the fall, said the ballet – created by Christopher Wheeldon – holds special meaning because she began her professional career at 14 when he hired her into his company.

“Over the years, Christopher Wheeldon, one of the world’s foremost choreographers, has shaped the way I translate a choreographer’s vision and absorb movement,” she said. “I like to think that we’ve created some of our most memorable work together.”

At the Royal Ballet, Stix-Brunell has also performed in Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland, The Winter’s Tale and Corybantic Games.

During her 11-year career with the company, she traveled the world and performed roles she had always dreamt of dancing, most recently as Juliet in Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet and Jacqueline du Pre in Cathy Marston’s The Cellist.

“Yet, I was always aware that a dancer’s career is not necessarily a long one, so returning to academics and going to university was always in the back of my mind,” said Stix-Brunell, an American who joined the Royal Ballet after finishing her junior year of high school in New York City.

She completed her senior year remotely and remembers taking the SATs in London between matinee and evening shows on a Saturday – in full stage make-up.

“Though I still wince when looking back at the daily regimen of painful pointe shoes, bleeding toes and physical wear and tear, I like to think that the years of high-intensity mental discipline and the desire to improve have been preparing me all along for this transition into a new life,” she said. “I’m excited to pursue other interests outside of dance.”

After being away from academic life for more than a decade, Stix-Brunell is looking forward to exploring the breadth of programs Stanford has to offer.

“I’m intrigued by the interconnectedness of the humanities and sciences, so the interdisciplinary avenues will be fascinating – symbolic systems in particular,” she said.

Stix-Brunell, who visited Stanford a couple of years ago during a rare four-day weekend, said she got goosebumps driving down Palm Drive and knew she had to apply.

“I’ve spent my professional life surrounded by excellence, so for this next chapter, what better place to be than Stanford,” she said. “Recently, one of my colleagues playfully commented that I was ‘swapping one world-class institution for another.’ I’m humbled and inspired.”